Congress, NCP corner Modi government over "stolen" Rafale papers

Mumbai: Opposition Congress and the NCP Thursday cornered the Narendra Modi government over the "stolen" Rafale documents and sought answers from it on the sensitive matter. While the Congress in Maharashtra said the Modi government is sinking deeper by the day in the Rafale deal, NCP Lok Sabha MP Supriya Sule sought answers from Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman over the theft of papers. Congress vice-president and spokesman Ratnakar Mahajan said the government has a lot to "hide" in the mega defence deal. He castigated the Centre over Attorney General K K Venugopal's statement calling for action against a leading English daily for publishing the "stolen" Rafale documents. He said despite lawyer Prashant Bhushan, one of the petitioners in the case, informing the Supreme Court that the Rafale papers were accessed through Right to Information (RTI) query, Venugopal claimed the documents were stolen from the defence ministry and the court should not consider them.

"Venugopal said `The Hindu' newspaper had published the same documents and action should be taken against the media house under the Official Secret Act," Mahajan said. Such a demand proves the Modi government is sinking deeper by the day in the Rafale case, he said. Isn't Venugopal aware that as per an SC order, a journalist is not suppose to disclose the source of his information? the Congress leader asked. "The government has a lot to hide and Prime Minister Modi harbours vengeance against those who are exposing him," he alleged. Addressing a press conference here, Sule described the government's statement in the SC that confidential documents related to the Rafale deal were stolen as "shocking" and "worrisome". The MP from Baramati said confidential documents being stolen from the defence ministry was a matter of shame and every Indian feels cheated. "I feel an Indian, everyone feels cheated ...its shocking that documents are stolen from the defence ministry," Sule said. The NCP leader said the nation needs answers on this sensitive issue. "The government must answer...Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman must respond. The prime minister does not answer anything, so no point in requesting him," she said. Sule said her father, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, a former defence minister, has observed that there is no instance in the past of documents of national importance being stolen. "If documents from the defence ministry can be stolen what will happen to the common man," she quoted her father as saying. "I don't want to politicise the issue as it concerns national security. But something is fishy. Documents cannot be stolen from my office. What has happened is a complete breach of security," Sule said. Speaking on the Pulwama terror attack, she said, "I would like to ask what was National Security Advisor Ajit Doval doing?" Meanwhile, senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar said the confidential papers may have been burnt to destroy evidence regarding the alleged irregularities in the Rafale deal. "How is it possible that a confidential file is stolen from the defence ministry," the former Maharashtra minister asked in a tweet.

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